What is it?
To best understand this first you have to take a look at how primates learn.
When primates are born only 20% of our brains are hard wired up. The rest is made up of millions of separate cells waiting for the baby to learn before they join themselves together. This is not the case with the rest of the mammal kingdom (except for elephants). where 80% of the brain is hardwired at birth. This is why kittens and puppies can learn to be cats and dogs so quickly.
As human babies learn their brains remember what they have learnt by hard wiring the cells (neurons) together to form Neural Pathways.
Different parts of the brain are allocated different functions and different areas learn at different speeds and ages. Very early on the baby learns to focus and recognise mum and to reach out and grab a toy.
The part of the brain that learns to understand sounds is generally hard wired between the age of 6 months and 5 years. If a kid was unable to hear properly during these years or was not exposed to talking then this learning may be compromised and the brain may not be properly able to “hear what the ears hear”.
As the child grows, his/her hearing and ears may be fine but his/her brain may have a hearing problem. This is called “Auditory Processing Disorder” or “Central Processing Disorder”
Children with this disorder will not no be aware of it because their hearing has always been impaired. And they assume that everyone else hears in the same way. I have had this all my life, but I only began to understand it when I began studying dyslexia.
How to recognise
Parents will probably notice the following in these kids:
- Forgets instructions easily
- Gets confused when given lengthy instructions
- Likes the TV or music , to be loud, especially if people are talking
- Tends to either shout or talk very quietly
- Daydreams and switches into his/her own world when its noisy or lots of people are talking
- Has difficulty understanding speech when there is a background noise
- Understands what you are saying better if s/he is looking at your face
- Seems to switch off in the middle of being told things and drifts into his/her own world
- Often late with talking in clear speech
- Confuses similar sounding words and letter sounds
- Tends to be forgetful
- Works better one to one than in a class
- Tends to be creative
How to get diagnosed
Most hearing clinics diagnose this. They will carry out tests using sophisticated equipment and give you a report. Read this carefully. Sometimes a child can have a slight problem in a number of areas that added together become significant.
10 Tips for parents and teachers
1. Make sure the child is looking at you when you give him/her important instructions.
2. Never give more than two instructions together.
3. Attract his/her attention by touch or saying his/her name before you start to talk to him/her.
4. Write down important facts, such as page numbers, times, names, dates.
5. Remember that this is for life so the child has to develop strategies to overcome the problem.
6. Try to check that s/he knows what s/he is meant to be doing as often as you can.
7. Children with this disorder are frequently also dyslexic so testing for this would be useful.
8. These kids benefit from basic, multi sensory phonics teaching because they may not be hearing the sounds of some letters or words correctly.
9. When one sense is impaired the brain usually compensates by magnifying another sense. Use the kid’s strengths when teaching.
10. Amphetamine drugs like Ritalin do not cure Auditory Processing Disorder.
For more details and help with this and related learning differences, see: